The morning sun created a glare on the water that my polarized sunglasses couldn’t dampen. Since it was a larger stream, I selected to fish nymphs with an indicator, but it was unlikely I would be able to see it in these conditions. Tightlining, European, or “Czech” nymphing was a technique I was just learning, mainly from YouTube videos from George Daniel, Lance Egan, Scott Major, and Mike Slepesky. I took two steps into the shallow water along the edge of the stream and cast upstream, raising my arm and quickly gathering the slack line. I felt contact with the flies as they bounced off the channel bed. I adjusted the drift and felt a quick tug on the line. Lifting the rod to nearly vertical, the line tightened, and the hook was set causing the trout to pull against the tension and shake its head. A 14 to15 inch holdover rainbow trout had taken my fly, thinking it was food. It fought hard, and I was able to bring it to the net after a minute or two.
This moment of fly fishing was four or five years ago, but I remember it very clearly. It was the first fish I caught on a fly that I had tied on my own. The fly was an Isonychia pattern, following the recipe and instruction of Scott Major. My sense of pride and accomplishment for tying a fly that fooled a fish that I landed was tremendous. Since that time, I’ve tied hundreds of flies, given some to friends and Project Healing Waters, and learned much more about the materials, techniques, and tools for fly tying.
Yesterday my family and I made the long trek to Bar Harbor, Maine. My friend Craig sent me a text message a few days ago with a link to an article on the five “must have ” flies for Maine trout fishing. Reading the article I discovered a fly I had never heard of: the “Maple Syrup Nymph”. I researched the nymph and found it had a great story attached to its creation. Alvin Theriault, a retired Game Warden in Maine, was an avid fly tier and fisherman from an early age. His passion for the sport motivated him to engrain fly fishing into the lives of his family and to own a farm that raised animals to help produce fly tying materials. His daughter Holly also loved fly fishing at an early age, and with the help of her father, she created the Maple Syrup fly. It is now the number three fly on the must have fly list! An article on Alvin and Holly also stated that by tying and selling the fly, Holly was able to pay for college and become a Geologist.
With my passion for fly fishing I was able to convince my wife and kids to make a quick stop at the L.L. Bean headquarters in Freeport, Maine. I may have some work ahead of me to convince my kids to invent a fly :). The “campus” of stores is a nice place to visit, and I was also able to pick up some Maple Syrup flies for my fishing sessions this week. I promise to give some updates in the next blog. Hopefully I can catch a nice brookie with a maple syrup nymph!
Alvin Theriault’s life has connected to fly fishing and helped connect his family and many others to the joy that fly fishing can bring as an activity. His farm and store are in Stacyville, Maine. I may not make it to visit on this trip, but I hope to someday. Last year I wrote a blog about Dr. Robert Mason, who invented the cardiac stress test and the coffee bean fly. His invention of the coffee bean fly created a bond with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that connects them to fly fishing today. Reading Alvin’s story reminded me of Dr. Mason. The creation of something as simple as a fly for fishing can bring together families and leave a legacy of outdoor conservation and appreciation.
Even if I never create a fly, I hope that the actions, conversations, writing, and interactions I have with my family can leave a lasting impression that carries on connections between them and between our environment.